National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Photo by John Alexander Reese

Dear Editor:

Today, we continue to dream.

Today, we celebrate the monumental 1963 demonstration of shared humanity in pursuit of the coveted liberty and justice for all promised by our Constitution. A promise denied to people of color in this country for centuries.

Sixty years ago, Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, in the shadow of the Great Emancipator, delivering a speech to a quarter-million dreamers of all races, ethnicities, genders and faiths who, too, believed in the promise of liberty and justice for all. Three generations later, we remember his dream, but we must once again be called to action.

In front of the masses who had gathered in the sweltering August heat for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dr. King declared, “1963 is not an end, but a beginning.”

“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

And while Jim Crow no longer rules the South and segregation is no longer the law of the land, too many remain shackled by oppression. LGBTQ+, Jewish, Latinx, AAPI, immigrant and yes, still Black communities remain the intentional targets of violence, legislation and systems that seek to oppress them. They continue to be disenfranchised and strategically blocked from our democracy’s most fundamental tenet – the right to vote.

While Dr. King’s speech became the most memorable of that day, an excerpt from Cincinnati’s Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth’s impromptu speech right before Dr. King holds lasting power: “…We realize that if freedom belongs to anybody, it belongs to everybody, and until everybody has freedom, nobody is really free.”

As the giants of that era shake the manacles of mortal life and pass into immortality, we must not merely be the dreamers, but mightily be the leaders who will realize Dr. King’s dream, the American Dream, for all.

1963 was not an end, but the beginning. It is apparent that 2023 is not yet an end, but it must be a continuation of that march ahead.

This was, and continues to be, Dr. King’s hope. This is our generation’s call to action.

“With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

With resolve,

Woodrow Keown, Jr.

President & COO

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this commentary piece do not necessarily the express the opinions of The Cincinnati Herald.

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